THE NIGHT BEFORE
About The Design and Production
One of Levine's key partners on the film was the production designer, Annie
Spitz, with whom he also worked on The Wackness and 50/50.
Spitz's greatest challenge on The Night Before was to make the Nutcracka Ball a
reality. "It had to be the party that they always wanted to go to - but also one
that had the feel of New York to it," says producer James Weaver. "We wanted it
to be New York's best Christmas party, the one that only the best and coolest
and most fun people can get into."
To create the location for the party to end all parties, the possibilities were
endless. "My original plan was for the party to be in an abandoned subway
tunnel, but as it turns out, that's very dangerous," Levine says. "We looked at
an old fort on the Hudson. But finally, we settled on a great space out in
Greenpoint, a refurbished factory that's now used to host weddings and other
With the actual location set, the filmmakers could begin designing the brightly
illuminated holiday rave, and again, they could do anything. "We looked at
Burning Man stuff, Coachella stuff, Mad Max-type stuff," Levine remembers. But
they cracked the code by focusing on what the location needed to accomplish. "We
needed it to be contained, and we needed a place for Miley to perform. There
were all sorts of logistical parameters that were, in a way, helpful."
"Before filming began, I did a lot of research on all the different things you
could do with Christmas lights," says Spitz. "As part of our location, we had a
long alley, and I knew I wanted to do something special with that dramatic
length. I saw an image of Christmas lights in a tunnel shape, and when I saw
that picture, I thought, 'Oh, that's perfect.' I thought that would be a cool
and dramatic introduction to our party."
"We built the tunnel in the alley and draped it in light curtains that have
several different settings," continues Spitz. "Then Jonathan had the idea to
have the guys enter the party on a train. This complicated matters because we
already built the tunnel, and so, we had to find a train that not only would fit
in the tunnel, but also, carry the weight of three men. Luckily, we found one
and it worked."
"We decided that a really cool entrance would make the party even cooler," says
Levine. "That was the fun stuff - to have them come through a deli, through a
tunnel of light, into the party, which we designed as this demented winter
wonderland with a giant Santa."
Wait - the entrance is a deli? "That was my idea," says Spitz. "We were trying
to make this movie as New York as possible, and nothing says New York like a
Inside the party is a 20-foot Santa puppet (sourced locally from a Brooklynite
who once had it built in order to outdo his neighbors as the block decorated
their homes for Christmas) and a giant, human-sized snow globe, custom built by
a company that specializes in building - you guessed it - giant, human-sized
So did they pull it off? Did they make it the New York Christmas party to end
all New York Christmas parties? "It made me want to party in New York on
Christmas, I'll tell you that much," says Goldberg.
Behind the camera was director of photography Brandon Trost. Ever since he was
brought to Rogen and Goldberg's attention as they searched for a DP for their
first film in the director's chair, he's been the go-to guy to bring an
unconventional look to studio comedies: he brought an apocalyptic vibe of This
is the End and gave The Interview the look of a dark thriller. With Rogen and
Goldberg vouching for him - and his body of work speaking for itself - he has
also lensed Neighbors, in which Rogen starred for Nicholas Stoller, and Levine
chose him for The Night Before as well.
Costume designer Melissa Toth was charged with finding the sweaters that the
guys wear through much of the film. "The sweater idea was written into a very
early draft of the script," says Levine. "I remember wandering around Manhattan
as I was writing and I saw an ironic Christmas sweater, and it just seemed to be
something that people were starting to do - to dress up like an idiot and go to
a holiday party. Melissa and I started to send each other ideas, and then I
found the Black Santa sweater. We wondered if it went too far, but Seth said,
'Well, I want to wear a Jewish star.' The idea became more and more fun,
especially as we started to come up with the different sweaters that they would
wear in the flashbacks. We must have tried on 100 sweaters."
It's likely that the sweaters added an extra challenge, as the film was
primarily shot during the summer in New York, save for a few must-have holiday
exterior shots. "It seemed challenging at the time to shoot a winter movie in
the summer, but then we came back to shoot the holiday shots in the winter, and
that put it into perspective. It's so much easier to shoot in the summer."
There was one problem with shooting summer for winter: there are all sorts of
everyday things that a movie needs to buy to make a set look like Christmas -
trees and wreaths and Christmas wrapping paper; any number of items - and you
can't easily find any of those things on the store shelves in the middle of
summer. "We had to be resourceful," Spitz says. "My fabulous team was able to do
In the exteriors, to make summer double for winter, Trost put steam pipes on
every block, and the filmmakers would wet down the pavement and add "snowy
remnants," as Levine recalls. But it all worked out. "Looking at the movie now,
I don't remember what we shot in January and what we shot in August," says the
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